In cricket, the term all-rounder often refers to a player who can bat and bowl. However, there have been players who have pushed the scope of the definition to include every skill that is manifested in a cricket field, viz., batting, bowling and keeping wickets, becoming true all-rounders in the real sense.
Internationally there have been players as diverse as Tatenda Taibu and Devon Thomas who could do the triple of batting, bowling, and keeping.
So, how many Sri Lankans could do it all? Let’s have a look. Though many wicket-keeping batsmen such as Kumar Sangakkara and Kusal Mendis have rolled their arm over, this list focuses only on players who have bowled consistently, at least, at a certain point in their careers, and picked up considerable number of wickets while having been the designated wicket-keeper of their team in more than one match.
#1 TM Dilshan
No prizes for guessing, Dilshan would obviously be the first one to come into the minds of Sri Lankans, when it comes to a player who bowls and keep wickets.
Initially, Dilshan was picked up as a wicketkeeper into the Sri Lankan A side that played against England A in 1998, but owing to the presence of other wicket-keeping batsmen, Dilshan made his debut for the national team as a specialist batsman. Since Sri Lanka had the presence of Kaluwitharana and Sangakkara, Dilshan wasn’t often required to keep wickets, but whenever a situation demanded him to don the gloves, the right-handed batsman seldom hesitated. Throughout his career, Dilshan kept sporadically, often when either the designated keeper was fatigued after playing a long innings or injured mid-way during a series.
Dilshan was also a competent off-spinner, picking up 39 wickets in tests and 106 in ODIs. Though a middling middle order batsman for the most part of his career, since beginning to open for Sri Lanka, Dilshan became one of Sri Lanka’s greatest batsmen.
Dilshan was also a livewire at the backward-point position and took innumerable amount of sensational catches.
#2 Asanka Gurusinha
One of Sri Lanka’s World Cup heroes, Asanka Gurusinha made his debut as a wicketkeeper in both Tests and ODIs for Sri Lanka. A rock solid left-handed batsman, Gurusinha, kept wickets in 1 Test and 3 ODIs before giving up the gloves and establishing himself as reliable number three batsman for Sri Lanka.
Gurusinha was also a decent medium pace bowler who has 20 Test wickets and 26 ODI wickets to his name in addition to his 107 first-class wickets.
With his gritty batting style and his innate ability to transmute into a power-hitter without caveats made him a dangerous batsman who could be relied upon. His batting at number three played a crucial role in Sri Lanka’s World Cup glory in 1996.
#3 Hashan Tillakaratne
Both Hashan Tillakaratne and his half-namesake Tillakaratne Dilshan possessed enigmatic similarities- they were both late bloomers who could bat, bowl and keep wickets. But Hashan is a step above Dilshan in a way that he could bowl with either of his arms- a rare skill that he manifested against Kenya in 1996 World Cup.
Playing as a wicketkeeper-batsman early on in his career, Hashan Tillakaratne started flourishing as a batsman since relinquishing his gloves. He was a key member of the 1996 World Cup winning team and captained Sri Lanka in Tests in 2004 before he was dropped from the team.
When not keeping wickets, Tillakaratne was a sprightly fielder, some of whose catches are still spoken of today.
An off-spinner with both arms, Tillakaratne picked up six wickets in ODIs and 41 in first-class cricket.
#4 Mahela Jayawardene
An exquisite stroker of the cricket ball, Mahela Jayawardene had cricket fans in thrall to his cover drives throughout his career. A veteran with the bat, Mahela bowled medium-pace regularly for Sri Lanka during the early stage of his career with his career-best figures of 2 for 56 coming against Kenya in 1999.
In the longer run, Mahela started bowling off-spin with his most memorable wicket coming during his last game in Sri Lanka when he had England’s Tredwell stumped out by Kumar Sangakkara. Mahela picked up 6 Test wickets, 8 ODI wickets, and 52 first-class wickets.
Being an adroit slip fielder, Mahela has taken up the wicketkeeping gloves on a few occasions to give his side a better balance. He, probably, made his debut as a wicketkeeper in the T20 match between Wayamba and Victoria in the 2009 Champions League tournament, prowling behind the stumps so that his team could afford an extra batsman.
In the Cricket All-Star series, Mahela kept wickets for his side- Sachin’s blasters- while Sangakkara was his opposite number.
#5 Chamara Kapugedera
Picked into the team as a teenager, a right-handed batsman with an attacking bent, Chamara Kapugedera, flattered to deceive many Sri Lankan fans making his career a poignant story about a profound talent that never materialized.
Kapugedera is an occasional wicketkeeper who has kept wickets at the domestic level on numerous occasions. Recently, he took position behind the stumps in the Mercantile tournament. He has effected 3 stumpings in first-class matches, 4 in List A matches and 1 in T20s.
Kapugedera is also a useful medium-pacer who has picked up 2 wickets in ODIs, 8 in first-class matches, 13 in List A matches, and 7 in T20s. Often employed as a fill-in bowler, Kapugedera’s most notable wicket was that of Michael Hussey in the CB series in 2008 when he swung a bowl into the Australian batsman to clean bowl him.
#6 Danushka Gunathilaka
An exciting young southpaw, who could possibly become Sri Lanka’s long-term opener in the shorter formats, Danushka Gunathilaka is yet another progeny in the lineage of Sri Lankans who could do the triple.
As an opening batsman, he had done exceptionally well with the A side before making his debut against the West Indies in 2015. In only his 4th ODI match, Gunathilaka hit an attacking half-century to help Sri Lanka win an ODI against New Zealand.
A brilliant fielder at point and short-leg, Gunathilaka’s off breaks are steady. He has already picked up 5 wickets in ODIs despite being used erratically. He has 57 wickets at the first-class level, 32 in List As and 15 in T20s.
Gunathilaka is also a competent wicketkeeper who kept for his side MAS Unichela in the recently concluded Mercantile tournament.